A masculine interior with clean, simple lines.
Downsizing can be daunting, but when you have the help of two dedicated designers, things start looking up.
Rarely does the term "blank slate" ring as true as when it comes to decorating a new space. But in Terence Little and Ben Clermont's case, it had a double meaning: They moved into a 1,080-square-foot new-build penthouse in central Vancouver, which, as Terence describes, "was white, white, white, everywhere looked," and they brought virtually nothing with them. Moving from a house more than twice the size, the couple purged everything but their artwork and a lone armchair, so they could start decorating from scratch.
But where does one even begin with a clean canvas like this? "With homework," advises designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors, who teamed up with Lindsay McLennan of Motto Interior Design to masterfully execute a design Terence and Ben would love while maximizing their limited space. "We have a pretty intense interview process," explains Jamie. "We ask our clients to do lots of colour research and to find inspiration photos." What the couple turned in revealed a proclivity for masculine interiors with simple, clean lines, Mid-Century Modern-style furnishings and bold hits of black. "We wanted the condo to look interesting, comfortable and modern, but not overly designed," says Ben. "Out top requested were to create a space that's efficient and easy to entertain in, as well as to highlight the view outside," adds Terence.
Homeowners Terence Little and Ben Clermont love the bright and airy builder-grade kitchen. The small kitchen island boasts ample prep space and storage for avid home chef Ben's many cookbooks.
The kitchen is sleek and streamlined but gets plenty of interest from the glass-tiled backsplash (which offers an ethereal effect).
Open shelving maintains the fresh, airy feel of the kitchen.
Though the stunning space is now a far cry from the blank slate it once was, we'll call it a fitting coincidence that so much of the design is hinged on slate grey.
"A large dining area was crucial for Terence and Ben, who love cooking and entertaining," says designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors. "But in order to achieve that, we needed to borrow some space." So Jamie and designer Lindsay McLennan of Motto Interior Design had the doors of a large closet removed and a banquette with deep storage drawers installed in its recess. The resulting nook can seat up to eight people with the benches from the entryway pulled into use. Harley the Australian Labradoodle approves of the new digs as well.
The high-contrast between the bright, light kitchen and the dark, saturated dining area is further accented with its tabletop accessories.
Not just a media unit, the contemporary cabinetry in the living area also displays tchotchkes, stores cleaning supplies, hides an unsightly air conditioner and boasts a fully stocked bar. The wall-mounted unit floats so even though it's charcoal grey and nearly 10 feet tall, it feels light and airy instead of oppressive.
The designers incorporated many Mid-Century Modern-inspired pieces liek this Eames-style lounger in the living area ("It offers the best views in the condo," says Terence, referring to not only the view of the park, but also that of Ben cooking).
How to survive a kitchen reno with a young family
How to survive a kitchen renovation with a young family and hectic schedules.
Two busy parents plus two young boys can add up to one hectic family home. When you subtract the kitchen, the outcome can be downright chaotic. Here's how Style at Home art director Karen Paddon survived her two-month kitchen reno.
Kitchen reno survival tips
1 If possible, schedule your reno for the summer months. We did ours in the winter, but having access to the barbecue and being able to spend most of our time outdoors would have been much more convenient.
2 If you can afford it, move out during the renovation or at least during the ruckus of the initial demo. We planned a family getaway for the weekend that the floors were being ripped up to escape the noise and dust.
3 Create a makeshift kitchen. We turned the upstairs playroom into a cooking space by taking up our old microwave, toaster and George Foreman grill, as well as a mini fridge from the garage. The tub in the adjacent bathroom was handy for washing dishes.
4 Shop small. To keep our temporary kitchen functional, we did a few grocery runs a week. That way, I cut down on the trips between two flights of stairs to the basement fridge.
5 Make a clean break. We isolated ourselves from the areas being worked on. We moved everything we needed (most importantly, the kids' toys) upstairs. My husband and I didn't go near the kitchen much, so the kids didn't seem to want to either.
6 Simplify. Without an oven, our menu options were limited, but we made it work. We ate a lot of sandwiches, salads and microwaved rice and peas. I tried to keep things healthy with veggie platters and cut fruit.
7 Stay in the loop. The more familiar you are with the reno timeline, the better you're able to anticipate the especially disruptive projects and plan outings during those hours.
8 Double and triple up. I think people try to tackle one reno at a time, but redoing the kitchen floor quickly snowballed into redoing the floors on the whole main level -- we wanted the same finish throughout. And once we got to the laundry room, we decided to renovate it, too.
9 Take this opportunity to visit with family and friends. A few times a week, we ate a meal at the grandparents'. And I don't think I turned down a single dinner party invitation in those two months!
10 Plan well. We survived it, but living through a kitchen reno was not easy. Above all else, I'd recommend having a game plan in place to keep the timeline as short as possible and to ensure all the boxes are ticked so there aren't any redos down the line. We chose a timeless aesthetic, so I won't have to touch the kitchen for another 10 years, at least!
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
A renovated kitchen gets bigger and brighter.
Designer Jennifer Ferreira helps a Toronto couple reach a design verdict that's both practical and polished.
Contemporary artwork and kids' colouring books; a travertine dining table and a teepee fort - these anomalous pairings are the norm at Courtney Toomath-West and Ken West's Toronto house. "This is a family home," says Courtney. "Our daughters can play, and my husband and I can retreat to formal rooms, all in one fairly small space."
Courtney and Ken, both lawyers, bought the 1,800-square-foot rowhouse in 2008 before their girls - Honor, now 6, and Caroline, 4 - were born. "Ken and I had been living in a condo, but when we began to think about having kids, we yearned for the character of an older home," says Courtney. This Victorian, in the city's Little Italy neighbourhood, fit the bill. "I fell for its original plaster mouldings as well as its high arches and ceilings," she says. "It hadn't been updated in decades, but it was well loved, and I wanted to preserve its charm."
"The entryway feels grand for a 16-foot-wide house," says designer Jennifer Ferreira. The oversized mirror creates the illusion of space, and the large pendant light complements the black trim on the sisal runner.
"When I first saw Courtney and Ken's house, it simply needed finessing," says designer Jennifer Ferreira. "I wanted to complement its architectural details, inject a tailored look and create a comfortable family space." Jennifer incorporated a few new and custom-made pieces into the decor, but says the transformation really started with the window coverings. "Drapes make a house feel like a home," she says. "I added them to all the principal rooms, hanging them above the window frames to create a sense of grandeur." The black drapery rods fitted with brass finials and drapes with a band of grey ribbon lend a sense of elegance and formality to the living room.
When they couple moved in, they replaced the existing light oak floors, which were in bad shape, with darker oak and, keeping their art collection in mind, painted the walls gallery-like neutral shades. Jennifer also updated the living room's outdated armchairs with sophisticated zebra-print fabric.
The kitchen was expanded by removing a wall between it and the den, and fitted with new cabinetry and appliances.
The grey lower cabinets add contrast to the mostly white kitchen, which is outfitted with Caesarstone countertops and stainless steel appliances.
The homeowners love to entertain and often host dinner parties, so Jennifer designed chairs for lounging in the dining room. A sculptural light fixture illuminates the travertine table, a family heirloom.
"The master bedroom doesn't get a lot of light, so I wanted to brighten it up," says Jennifer. An airy wall colour, natural linen headboard and ikat-print bench do the trick.
"I painted the bathroom walls white and replaced a dark wooden vanity with a white one for a more tailored look."
In daughters Honor and Caroline's bedroom, the drapes match the pink linen headboards. "The fabrics can easily be changed if they ever tire of them," says Jennifer. Courtney added the princess sign for a little sparkle.
Soft pink hydrangeas add a sweet, fresh touch to the girls' pink bedroom.
"The Wests honeymooned in Morocco, so I chanelled that look on their patio," says Jennifer. "The pendant light, side table and toss cushions resemble items found in a souk."
Nothing brings the indoors out better than carrying your colour palette out onto the patio. The patterned toss cushions keep the family comfortable and cozy while adding a fun dose of the bright pink seen throughout the rest of the home.